In a victory for environmental crusaders, a report published by NASA reveals that India and China are leading the increase of green cover on land.
“The world is literally a greener place than it was 20 years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage: China and India. A new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land,” the United States‘ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced in a report published on February 11.
The study, co-authored by Chi Chen from the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University and Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, bases its findings on a nearly 20-year-long data record from a NASA instrument, called the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) which orbits the Earth on two satellites. The findings have been published online in the journal, ‘Nature Sustainability’.
The study attributes this spurt in the green cover to New Delhi and Beijing‘s “ambitious” tree planting programmes and the intensive agriculture practised in both the nations.
Putting forth the findings, Chen, the lead author of the study, says: “China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation – a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation.”
Nemani outlines that human contribution has led to the phenomenon. “When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance. Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing,” Nemani noted.
The study highlights that there are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, as compared to the early 2000s which is a direct 5 per cent increase.
While the area used to grow crops in India and China has not increased since the 2000s, these regions have greatly increased both their annual total green leaf area and food production owing to better cropping practices.
However, the study cautions of a trend change if there is a depletion of groundwater – which facilitates increased food production – in India.
Calling humans resilient, the study also lauds the spirit of the people who have taken it upon themselves to fix the issue of vegetation loss.
“Once people realize there’s a problem, they tend to fix it,” Nemani says.
“In the 70s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss wasn’t good; in the 90s, people realized it; and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data,” he added.
Despite criticism from western nations regarding increased pollution, India has maintained that all nations share common but differentiated responsibilities when it comes to curbing climate change. Emerging countries like India and China have always sought a room to develop and the recent findings indicate that the countries are also taking their responsibility towards the environment seriously.
Conscious efforts have been made in India to tackle the issues of green cover loss and climate change, including mass tree plantation drives in regions like Delhi and Maharashtra amongst others. Moreover, in a push towards shifting to cleaner sources of energy, India is home to two of the largest wind farms in the world – the Jaisalmer Wind Park and the Muppandal wind farm – along with being the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance. (ANI)